Gotham is finally here and it’s pretty good…when it doesn’t focus on anything related to Batman . That’s kind of a problem when the main draw of the show is its connections to the caped crusader.
The show’s strength is the classic tale of the straight laced rookie cop trying to do the right thing in a city filled with corruption. The noir special. Ben McKenzie is a pretty good James Gordon for this task, and plays well off of Donal Logue. Logue plays a smoother Harvey Bullock than the character has been historically portrayed in comics and animation, but it works. He’s connected on the streets, almost too well. The old idealistic cop partnered with a jaded vet routine is at play here. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Gotham is at its best when those two are busting heads or getting out of sticky situations.
The rest of the cast is up and down. I love John Doman as mob boss Carmine Falcone. Doman is best known for his role as William Rawls on The Wire. He brings every bit of sliminess from that role to Falcone. Jada Pinkett Smith surprised me, as I wasn’t expecting much from her as the unfortunately named Fish Mooney. She brought some charm to the role and seems to be embracing the over top nature of a villain with the first name Fish.
The supporting cast seems somewhat weak out of the gate. Gordon’s love interest Barbara is rich and knows James is a good guy, etc. etc. Barbara is tasked with the old “do you really know your lover?” storyline. Of course, her ex-lover that raises suspicions is…a woman!? Ohhhh snap! Well, at least that’s Gotham plays that reveal. The ex-lover in this case is Renee Montoya.
Montoya is one of the best portrayals of a homosexual character in all of comics. Greg Rucka’s Gotham Central story dealing with her coming out of the closet is excellent. Throughout Gotham Central, Montoya and her partner Crispus Allen play the good cops just trying to do the right thing in a crazy city. They’re superb together. They’re the kind of people that you root for in these situations. In Gotham they just come off as smug big shots out to get our protagonists. They’re a pair of Doakeseseses. Hopefully this improves as the series goes on. They’re not off to a promising start.
I had heard a lot of good things about Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin going into this and wasn’t tremendously impressed. He’s a sniveling rat of a character that they really play for quirks. This all comes back to the source material issue. Classic Bat-villains are introduced with all of the subtlety of the 1966 Batman movie’s submarine purchasing Mr. P. N. Guin. The villain tie-ins are tedious and cheesy. Whoa, that one guy in the police sure does like riddles! Hey, that little red headed girl sure does like those plants! I can’t wait to find Mr. Freeze hanging out in the frozen section of the supermarket.
Then there’s the Bat himself. I am not a fan of lil’ Bruce Wayne. Much like no one cares about the youthful podracing adventures of Anakin Skywalker, no one cares about Bruce Wayne as a child beyond his parents’ death. The character gets interesting when he disappears to discover himself and comes back as something different. Seeing him as an angry teen could be intriguing. Seeing him as a small child? No thanks. It’s like someone saw that scene between Gordon and young Bruce in Batman Begins and said, “Let’s make a whole series out of that!” I’m expecting Bruce to do this to Alfred every other episode:
Character problems aside, Gotham has potential. The set design is terrific. You get a good feel for the city. It’s a little Burtonesque, especially the funky police station that Gordon and Bullock work out of. That’s important, especially if you’re going to get a little goofy with the characters. Gotham is a dark, dangerous, weird place. It needs to be a place the audience cares about if they’re going to give a damn about Gordon’s quest to clean it up.
Blah blah blah
- The opening features a fairly by the numbers portrayal of the Wayne murders. Perhaps a little more bloody than usual. Would it have killed them to do something more stylized? Batman’s origin is right up there with Spider-Man’s as one I never need to see again. They are embedded into our culture at this point.
- In the mere seconds the Waynes are on screen, I did not like the actors portraying them. Am I a jerk? Probably, yeah.
- I didn’t mention this above, but I also really like the casting of Richard Kind as the mayor of Gotham. He kinda looks like Chris Christie…
- Catwoman saw everything! And didn’t say a word in the entire episode! I’m convinced she’s mainly present to wear a hoodie and goggles. Kids these days love that stuff.
- Over/under on a DA Harvey Dent mention? I’m setting it at 3 episodes.